Words by: Ingrid, Wouter, Tal
Pictures by: Ingrid, Wouter
After two years of without an edition as almost every festival has been absent due to Covid-19, we were finally able to travel to Obermehler/Schlotheim again for this year’s edition of Party San Open Air. If you’re a fan of the more extreme genres in metal, this festival can not be unfamiliar for you since it has served as being the hotspot for extreme metal lovers for many years! We’re not unfamiliar with the festival ourselves either, and have attended more than ten editions already. This year we brought some fresh blood with us to maybe shine a new light on our experiences, so with the glitters still in our hair and the sound of the washing machine on the background, it is time to hit the ABBA playlist, and start writing down some thoughts and experiences about one hell of a (first) Party San.
Arriving at the festival feels like coming home, mainly due to the fact that not much has changed when it comes to the festival and camping grounds. Being welcomed by the flags of all the nations of which people are attending this year has been a Party San tradition for many, many years.
Party San is a festival where everybody is welcome with all their weirdness, and where you can bring all your leftover random things, such as inflatable flamingos and toilet brushes; or leek. The camping area could give all of us Partisans a place to sleep, if we would have taken any and, we’re just going to say it – a big thank you for the clean toilets and showers, which have also been improved again this year, you did a great job, Party San (and Shit and Shower)!
As vegans/vegetarians and foodies, our hearts grew from the Afghan food stand, the vegan stand, the whisky bar; but also as golden oldie, a fries stand was present to provide the necessary midnight snacks. As nice as homemade camping coffee in the morning is, I was happy with the breakfast stand. The best part was that they also served ice coffee with all kinds of alcohol, in short: coffee to make you dance even more! The offer on food and drinks had a very wide range which is a huge plus to this festival and definitely distinguishes Party San from many other festivals.
But we didn’t came all the way to Obermehler just for the food and clean sanitaries, we obviously came to see some bands as well. As mentioned above, Party San mainly focusses on the more extreme genres within the metal music, but it also keeps its door open for bands that don’t necessarily fit in this category.
Still recovering from the Pre Party on Wednesday evening in the tent stage, it was time for the first of three hot days of this festival. The line up today was pretty diverse, and we’ve watched some bands worthy of a mention . Headliner of the day was Cannibal Corpse; now this is a band who knows how to put on a solid show and they definitely were a worthy headliner of the day, they had the biggest crowd by far, and even though they suffered from some miscommunication and sound issues at the beginning of their show, they were great. George Corspegrinder still makes the same jokes as he did ten years ago (introducing songs as Fucked With a Knife and I Cum Blood), but he manages to get away with it, being such a stable front man, vocalist and performer.
They weren’t the only band suffering from sound issues; during the first day the balance between the microphones from the singers and the instruments were a bit off, causing that singing was harder to hear. This was also the case for Alcest, which did some injustice to the music. Apart from that, the show was really good, the lightshow suited the music and the audience was really into the show. The song “Sur l’océan couleur de fer” was fully supported with a beautiful sunset, while “Autre Temps” had a double meaning in these times. The voice of the singer Neige (Stéphane Paut) seemed a bit thin during the clean vocals, and quite some parts were cast aside to the guitarist.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Secrets of the Moon, a not so accessible band. To my pleasant surprise, they added a third second guitar (Kevin Olasz), which made the sound quite massive. With some mixed feelings, I enjoyed (the song) “Seven Bells” and of course the sublime “Man Behind the Sun”. The show was spot on, although as often at Party San, the (probably?) tarmac plays havoc with the sound settings the first day. Front man sG was (as always) fully into it, but this was visually one of the better shows I’ve seen from them.
A lot more black metal in the full sun this day it was. Rising stars Gaerea played quite early this day on the main stage. It must have been even hotter for them, considering their stage outfits being completely black, including themselves being covered in black paint from top till toe. Hot or not, they moved their way through the set and even though the first songs we barely heard anything else than bass drums, but it got better during the set and they played an okay show. Singer Guilherme Henriques didn’t seem to be bothered by the temperature at all, as he is incapable of standing still and danced and moved all show long.
Also quite strange to watch in the full sun: Der Weg Einer Freiheit: probably one of the best atmospheric black metal bands Germany offers this day and age, and boy, were they happy to be playing again for a large open air audience. The music was loud, tight and blasting beyond anything else I can think of in their genre. Nikita Kamprad’s vocals, the doubled-up guitar work by him and Nicolas Raush and the machine-like drumming of Tobias Schuler was mind blowing. In my ears, songs like “Am Rande der Dunkelheit” and “Lichtmensch” just never bore.
Thankfully the sun had already set during Mayhem – a band to love and hate simultaneously if you believe some. Last time around, I didn’t really enjoy them. This time however, I was blown away and captivated. Old arguments aside of booking the same ol’-same ol’, the show was played very nicely indeed. Though not one for much stage posing (except the of course performance art of Atilla) the band did seem to enjoy a bit of doing so here and there. The sound was okay and though I might still have my doubts, I did enjoy the show a lot this time.
Two other mention-worthy performances were those of Anomalie and Whoredom Rife. Both played in the tent stage, and had outstanding shows. Anomalie performed one of the best shows of the festival, even though it’s difficult to bring their complex music lines to a stage, even with 3 live guitar players. Whoredome Rife never disappoints with their straightforward black metal, and the show this day has been one of the best I’ve seen of them.
Where we mainly focused on black metal on the first today, today we aimed our arrows differently. The second day of Party San traditionally opens with some dirty grind core or brutal death metal band. The honour this year was for German band Kadaverficker. The camp grounds emptied and the infield filled with people and everything else you can imagine. All possible blow ups in the world, toilet brushes, confetti, glitter and a lot more entered the circle pit for half an hour. And though it was a great party, the band choice was a bit disappointing. Kadaverficker played an okay show, but they aren’t a straight forward grind band, which took a bit of the shine out of it. The crowd didn’t care nonetheless and partied and pitted like their life depended on it.
Relating to this was the show of Bütcher that played later on the day in the tent, ‘Why?’, you might ask; well, because during their show, which was one of the best shows of the festival, the pit was ongoing for a long time as well. If you ever try to create a moshpit on Party San: forget it. It’s a habit to turn every moshpit into a circle pit on these grounds and it has barely been succeeded to create a proper moshpit. Not that this matters because a pit is a pit!
The pits were the theme of the day, but with a headliner such as Carcass, what else is there to expect? Another day, another death metal headliner, right? As varied as the bands may have been, within the lines of extreme metal, the headliners this year were all death metal bands. With four last bands playing on the mainstage that weren’t necessarily within this genre today and the day before, that’s doable, but having at least one main headliner from another genre would have been preferable.
Also, we really don’t want to do any injustice to Carcass because, damn, what a live performance they give! In my experience, “Surgical Steel” is still quite a new album, but it already being nearly ten years old made way for its successor Torn Arteries, whose promotional tour is still going on, also here on Party San; almost half of the setlist consisted of songs from their latest album. It’s obvious this band feels at home being on bigger stage and were a true headliner this day.
What we mainly loved today, was the fact that you didn’t feel like you’re burning to death anymore. Part of this was due to the slight breeze there was today, but also the festival did its best to provide some comfort against the heat. Water taps could be found on the festival area and on the campgrounds, as well as newly installed outdoor showers to make you cool off a bit. Some more shade on the field would have been nice, but there was enough space to hide from the burn.
While the sun was at its highest, we watched the show of Lik, but unfortunately for them, more than a few metal lovers were hiding away from the sun, at different places than the tiny bit of shadow in front of the stage. Now the asphalt isn’t the best place to stand at this point of the day anyway, but still it was a shame because the band played a real good and tight show, even though there were a few start up problems.
When they were followed up by the Ukrainian band, 1914, some more people found it in themselves to drag their hot bodies towards the stage and pay some respect to the band, that is obviously going through hard times. Their show was as impressive as expected and they played a reasonable setlist with a nice balance between promoting their latest release “Where Fear and Weapons Meet,” and older songs. Impressive was their frontman (Ditmar Kumarberg), making his way throught the audience during one of the songs.
For most acts of the day, the people remained at the infield, despite the heat. Misery Index for example always gets a big audience going on this festival, as they did this year as well. A slight drop was noticed during the show of Heidevolk. Even though they are a really good live band, and they didn’t lack energy at all, quite the opposite even, they didn’t manage to capture the audience.
US (Portland, Oregon) based UADA are hitting the shores of ye’ Olde World, touring together with Canadian Panzerfaust who played on Saturday. The infectious, extremely fast riffing and drumming combined with an almost laid-back rock-and-roll sound does something to the listener. With their hard to discern faces, somewhat black voids of human shapes, the atmosphere is definitely post-human era and otherworldly. That is, if you have time to look in between headbanging your skull off – some black metal this day after all!
The last day of the festival we were treated with some clouds all day long, which were welcomed by everyone because we went from raw, to medium rare, to well-done the past days. Unfortunately this meant that, just like the day before, not all bands were able to put on their backdrop, due to heavy winds. Panzerfaust was one of them. Their system of employing two vocalists, Brock ‘Kaizer’ van Dijk, who also plays guitar, and Goliath (Tom Remigio) was already cool on studio. Live however, this is almost scary. The confrontational hatred put on display by Brocks’ vocals and the eerie counter vocals by Goliath do very well to enrapture the audience. After “Tabula Rasa,” the blasting and galloping “Snare of the Fowler” hit the stage. The song is a rather impressive ‘anihilistic’ climax, both lyrically and musically.
A band that surprised us today was Månegarm. They didn’t quite fit on the billing, being more folky than any kind of extreme metal, but nevertheless their show was pretty brutal and straight forward. The fact that they don’t have a live violin player anymore for quite a few years already, might have contributed to this fact, but they for sure seemed to grab the attention of the audience a lot better than their pals from Heidevolk did the day before, even though there weren’t that many people watching their show either. Ending their gig with the infamous song ‘Hemfärd’ felt like a trip down memory lane.
Also leaving quite an impression today was Fleshcrawl. Last year the band unfortunately lost their singer Sven Groβ and they paid a huge tribute to him by bringing two huge banners on stage in his honour – gone but not forgotten. The band’s new vocalist Borisz Sarafutgyinov proved himself being more than capable fortunately and the band stood like a rock.
Never disappointing and probably the band with the biggest discography here on this festival is Nunslaughter. Thinking of it, it’s quite surprising that they haven’t played on this festival before because they are a perfect fit on the billing and are almost made to play on a festival such as Party San with their black/death metal style. Also not a negative word can be spoken about the show they presented us because it was one of the most straightforward, tightest shows we’ve seen here this year.
Also having their debut on Party San this year is Saor, who have captured and kept my attention since his (Andy Marshall) second release (“Aura”, 2014). By now, Saor is a rather well established name within the atmospheric black metal subgenre. His latest album (“Origins”] ) just got released. It was clear the (live) band members enjoyed themselves playing the fast, but weaving and mesmerizing melody lines of “Call of the Carnyx” and “The Ancient Ones”. Indeed, Marshall also has become a nice live musician to watch, including some dry Scottish humor. The had the bad luck of losing some gear during their travels towards the festival, but fortunately Party San always has an Ibanez stand on the festival, that was kind enough to let them borrow one of the guitars!
Sticking to debutants, Path of Destiny and Eis played right after each other in the tent stage, the first one having a home game here on Party San. Path of Destiny left us quite undecided. We came to acknowledge that they are pretty good live musicians, but they lacked any form of originality which made it quit boring to watch to be honest. Eis also isn’t world’s original band either, but their stage performance caught our interest a lot more and they won us over to stick to their show, instead of heading off toward the mainstage where Impaled Nazarene started playing.
Dark Funeral! For some, they should have been the headliner on Saturday, but they had the third to last slot. Personally, I didn’t really mind, and enjoyed the showed a lot. The band has had some mediocre releases, but personally I think all the ‘blue’ releases are just awesome. Whether it’s their 1996 “Secrets of the Black Arts”, the 2016 “Where Shadows Forever Reign” or the newest, “We Are the Apocalypse” (2022) – the old vein of pure Satanical black metal just hits the right chord for me. The show was impressive, including local audience favourite “Open the Gates” and “My Funeral.” I do confess a bit of screaming along during the song “Secrets of the Black Arts” – just enough for Satan to hear my joy of listening to his disciples play their merry tunes.
We might have argued here and there against booking too many ‘old’ headliners and thereby not granting enough space to younger acts. For Party San, this holds true as well. Although the mix of young and old on the main stage was not entirely bad a bit more creativity would be welcome. However, special and re-uniting acts such as Dismember proved that old does still kick ass. The audience seemed to think no less so, and was very enthusiastic. The playing was fast, very tight and brought with Swedish humour at times. Especially the songs from 1993 notorious release “Indecent and Obscene” brought a lot of joy (to me at least) when played live.
So what makes Party San Open Air so great? Well for sure one of the main reasons is that people really gather for the love of (extreme) metal music and it’s not turned into a carnival festival, like so many others. You won’t find a majority of silly dressed up people, drunkenly disturbing you while you enjoy a good band playing. People have respect for each other, to the festival and its grounds and surroundings and each other’s property. The festival is affordable, even after Covid-19, ticket/beer and food prices haven’t risen sky high, but are fair. The festival also has a wide set up which gives you enough space to sit down on the grass (or asphalt) without having to worry that someone will stumble over you or your friends. To say it the German way: this festival is very ‘gemütlich’.